For everyone who’s asked about my time in DC, it took a while (a very long while), but I thought I’d wait for the immediate theatrics and media frenzy of the Women’s March to settle down, to actually think about its significance to me, before sharing with everyone else. It’s kind of scary that this post is still glaringly relevant, almost three months after the march, but I’ve finally mustered up the urgency to write about the march.
First, though, I made a video!
I end the video with “life’s great” and in many ways, it’s been really freaking great and being able to go to DC on a whim was amazing. But in the broader context of our community/nation, life is really sucky for too many people right now.
I went to Women’s March to stand in solidarity with a movement that has denounced Trump’s abrasive and threatening rendition on a role as sacred as the presidency. I also went to march with the expectation that it would be overwhelming and rewarding and, in many ways, imperfect.
The mood during the entire march was unexpectedly cheerful and very pink, a protest in itself against the election season and the gloomy weather in Washington on the day of the march. People living in town houses on the residential parts of the city stood on their patios with mugs of tea to cheer us on. MLK quotes were picketed on lawns.
I’m not an activist. I don’t consider myself a social justice warrior or someone who engages in impassioned discussion about politics. I believe in women’s rights and science and the environment and all the things that, in my mind, seem like obvious things to advocate for. But I do not like thinking about politics, and rallies are uncomfortable because there are so many people and sometimes it just seems like theatre.
Does having this perspective make me an ignorant person? Am I being passive about social issues because I have experienced more privilege than injustice in my life? I’ve been thinking about how to answer these questions for months.
Here’s my impression of it all.
On the day of the march, vendors parked on sidewalks selling memorabilia as if I was strolling through an amusement park. Older women wearing translucent backpacks carried snacks and doled out sugary “Good mornings,” people posed for Instagram pictures and yelled out their home states like sports teams. I got bake-sale fundraiser vibes out of an event that was supposed to be very far from home made cookies.
During the march, everyone seemed to know exactly what they were fighting for. I know this because posters and bright colors moved in currents, claiming agency over feminism and LGBTQ pride, venting grievances for the Bad Guy who’d gotten up on the wrong side of the bed during the entire election season. It seemed like everyone but me had precisely weighed what was at stake and had come into the march with an identity and an assuredness that what they believed was right. Trump supporters were robotically shamed by protesters. Everybody’s resoluteness made me feel even more unsure of myself.
Sometimes, I’m just not sure what I’m fighting for.
I do believe in women’s rights and climate change and scientific advancement and helping the poor and getting the bad guys, but these are buzz words. Almost anyone can have an opinion about these topics without knowing much about their implications.
Growing up in the Silicon Valley liberal bubble has mostly protected me from the bigotry and hatred I’ve seen on the news. I’ve played spectator to the rallies and the social media back-and-forths and the loud outrage that many people have expressed in the past year. Almost everyone I surround myself with is liberal and holds the same values I do about everything, not just politics. I think that this has muted the injustice for me, and I think that for a lot people at the protest, the people that I shared the street with, the people that contributed to the noise and the chants, the assuredness of right and wrong seemed affected, the buzzwords were blazing. People sat in over-crowded cafe’s at the end of the march, tired, talking about going home, scrolling through new Instagram posts.
After the march, the urgency of the things we were protesting fizzed out almost immediately.
Attending the Women’s March made me think about politics for the first time in a while. Street protesting will always seem a little bit unproductive and overwhelming to me, but for all of my reservations about the march, it was still important and necessary because it gave people a space to express and build community. I know that many people who attended the march had gone with specific intentions and understandings of what they were fighting for, but I also know that I couldn’t have been the only one who wasn’t too sure. It’s just that usually people who aren’t sure don’t write about it.
So this is what I want. I want to figure out what I’m fighting for. The easy part is believing things and chanting, especially when everyone else around is doing the same thing. But when I mean figuring out, I mean finding things that will carry their urgency no matter what. Injustice can’t be addressed with a one-and-done bake sale. I do not want fizzing.
In the past few months, I’ve been more actively talking to people about why they believe the things they believe. Marching down Constitution Avenue, I couldn’t help thinking that being unsure isn’t entirely bad. Being too sure of what is right and what is wrong amplifies the echo chamber and can push important groups of people out of the movement. It can be divisive and stilt conversation, which ironically plays into Trump’s schema. I want to figure out what I’m fighting for, and as a self-proclaimed non-activist experiencing politics in 2017, I think it’s necessary to be more active, to start caring about these things with other people, especially the ones who think differently from myself. There are an infinity of ways to protest.
The last year of college has been formative. To surround myself with people who come from all over the world, to have access to these different perspectives, to be able to hop on a bus to DC, has compelled me to see things as more than purely right or purely wrong. I think lots of people attach parts of their identity to the beliefs they hold, and I’m still trying to figure that part out. I want to get to some point of assuredness. I know that these sorts of things evolve, that my perspective will be informed by the people I am with, and that’s why I am so glad to be in a place filled with people who disagree with me by way of living different lives from my own. This collective system of mutual informing and talking is the kind of environment that felt missing at the march and something that I’ve been looking for since.
I want to have a discussion with everyone on the topics of politics and especially student activism. Comment below or on social media if you have a response to anything I’ve said about my experience at Women’s March. I’d love to see what other people think about this.